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Authorities to Investigate Arrest of Gang Member

Wave Newspapers, News Report, Staff Report Posted: May 15, 2009

EL MONTE The videotaped rough arrest of a gang member on parole by El Monte police will be investigated by the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department, as well as by the El Monte police department, a police lieutenant said Thursday.

Richard Rodriguez, 23, of El Monte, led police on a high-speed pursuit Wednesday afternoon that ended in a crash in Pico Rivera.

At one point a passenger got out of the car and surrendered. A second passenger remained in the car and was detained without incident at the end of the chase.

Rodriguez ran into a backyard, where he got on the ground with his arms outstretched.

The first officer to catch up with Rodriguez kicked him in the head.

Another officer hit him with his flashlight as the suspect was being handcuffed by several officers on the ground. Afterwards, the officer who kicked Rodriguez and an officer with a police dog exchanged a high five.

The entire incident was caught on videotape by one of the news helicopters that had been following the chase.

This afternoon, Lt. Ken Alva of the El Monte Police Department said the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department will conduct an independent review to determine whether excessive force was used. He said the sheriffs report will be submitted to the District Attorneys Office, which will determine whether any action will be taken against the officer who initially kicked the suspect.

Meantime, the officer has been placed on non-patrol duty, he said.

El Monte police will conduct a separate investigation, Alva said.

According to police, the pursuit began about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday when an El Monte police officer tried to stop a vehicle for a traffic violation.

Rodriguez had tattoos, dress and appearance, that led the officer to believe he was a gang member, Alva said.

The pursuit wound through the cities of El Monte, Industry, Whittier and Pico Rivera as Rodriguez used side streets and the San Bernardino (10) and San Gabriel River (605) freeways, Alva said. Before the chase came to an end, officers determined that Rodriguez was a parolee at large with an extensive criminal history.

During the pursuit, Rodriguez stuck his left hand out the window and flashed gang signs, and someone tossed an item out of a car window that officers initially believed was a weapon, but later determined was a Bluetooth wireless headset.

Alva did not say if officers had determined the item was not a weapon before confronting Rodriguez.

Rodriguez was booked on suspicion of felony evading and a possible parole violation, meaning he is not eligible for bail.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California issued a statement calling for the immediate suspension of the officer who was seen kicking and for an investigation of the incident by the LA County District Attorney.

This video is truly chilling in the clarity with which it captures an egregious example of police abuse, the statement read.

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